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Grant supports rights of Black property heirs in South Carolina

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The Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation has been awarded a $300,000 grant over two years from the Wells Fargo Foundation to support its educational outreach and legal assistance to heirs’ property residents in South Carolina to help them keep their family land.

The center has delivered legal education and direct legal services to heirs’ property owners for more than 18 years. To date, the center has resolved 340 title issues on land with a tax-assessed value of $20.7 million, according to a news release from the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation.

Heirs’ property is land passed down informally from generation to generation, often because landowners die without a will, according to the release. In the absence of a will, the land is considered jointly owned by all heirs, split between multiple family members regardless of whether they have set foot on the land, lived on the property or paid the taxes.

“Property matters to people,” Jennie L. Stephens, CEO for the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation, said in the release. “It’s far more than just a parcel of land, it can be a window to the past that tells the story of a family, a community, or a way of life. We believe that with our proven expertise and with the help of our friends at Wells Fargo, we can help more families in South Carolina protect their family land.”

“The Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation should be commended for bringing the issue of heirs’ property to the forefront, and we’re grateful to be a part of this effort to transform a system that often leads to loss of property, land and wealth for families of color,” Juan Austin, senior vice president at the Wells Fargo Foundation, said in the release. “Launched in 2022, Wells Fargo’s Heirs Property Initiative, provided $3.6 million in grant funding to 20 organizations to support work addressing issues of fractured or entangled titles. These housing and legal assistance nonprofits will be supported to help more people and communities keep generational land and property.”

The Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation provides legal services and forestry services in Allendale, Bamberg, Beaufort, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Chesterfield, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Dillon, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Hampton, Horry, Jasper, Kershaw, Lee, Marion, Marlboro, Orangeburg, Richland, Sumter and Williamsburg counties.

Reach Ross Norton at or 864-642-5229.

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